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11 October 2001 Edition

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Devenny killing: the RUC leopard hasn't changed its spots

"The issue of policing went to the heart of the problems of the state and was not addressed in these months." Writing in 'From Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry and the Birth of the Troubles', Niall ” Dochartaigh was referring to the reaction of nationalists in the Bogside to the RUC beating of Sammy Devenny in April 1969. Devenny later died of his injuries.

It is worth stating, especially in light of SDLP support for the RUC, that the issue of policing can't be resolved outside of a political solution.

Last week, the RUC was again in the spotlight over the violence it used against the nationalist population in Derry in 1969, particularly the assault it carried out on Sammy Devenny and his family.

On Thursday, 4 October, Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan released the results of her office's three-month investigation into a complaint made by the Devenny family that the RUC never communicated with them about the events of April 19 1969. Upholding the family's complaint, O'Loan revealed that her office uncovered a copy of the report carried out by Metropolitan police chief superintendent Kenneth Drury into the attack on Devenny.

When the Ombudsman's Office had asked the RUC for a copy of the Drury Report they were told that they (the RUC) didn't have one.

In the report, the then Chief Constable of the RUC, Sir Arthur Young, described the refusal of the RUC members deployed in the Bogside to talk to Drury as "a conspiracy of silence".

Reacting to the report, Clark was forced to admit that "some RUC officers knew who the culprits were but were unwilling to help establish the truth".

Drury established that RUC members were involved in the attack but was not able to identify those responsible. During the assault in the Devenny home, Sammy Devenny was batoned about the head and two of his daughters, Ann (18) and Catherine (16), who was recovering from surgery, were also assaulted.

Drury also identified four RUC members who knew what happened but who 'were in fear of retribution from colleagues' if they told the truth.

In May 1969, Chichester-Clark announced a general amnesty in respect of all criminal offences committed between 5 October 1968 and 6 May 1969, which meant that there could be no prosecutions in respect of the Devenny case.

Regarding a further complaint from the family that Sammy Devenny died as a result of the RUC beating, the Ombudsman upheld Drury's finding that he was unable to reach any conclusion as to whether Sammy Devenny died as a result of the injuries received. Drury noted that the coroner ruled Devenny died as a result of natural causes.

In a statement welcoming the Ombudsman's Report, the Devenny family said they were "mystified as to why the RUC were unable to furnish a copy of the Drury report to the Ombudsman", and said that the RUC claim not to have retained a copy of the report "raises questions about the willingness of the RUC to learn the lessons of the report".


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